Health and health care news

PORTLAND, Maine - Infant mortality is on the rise in Maine, according to the Maine Children's Alliance Annual Kids Count data released Monday. 

Executive Director Claire Berkowitz says from 2005 to 2015, the rate of infant deaths per thousand births rose from 5.6 to 6.7, "a troubling indicator that isn't just about the well-being of babies, but it's about the well-being of a community."

Berkowitz says the increased rate likely signals larger problems, such as lack of access to health care for women, as well as issues with education and poverty.

Maine’s child and teen suicide rate increased 30 percent from 2012 to 2014, according to the Maine Children’s Alliance’s annual Kids Count Data Book released Tuesday.

Executive Director Claire Berkowitz says the current rate is nearly 7 suicides per 100,000 deaths for kids ages 10-19.

“And the national rate is 5.4, so we’re significantly higher than the national rate,” she says.

Berkowitz says it’s difficult to pinpoint the reasons behind the increase, but the suicide rate highlights the need to strengthen Maine’s mental health system.

PORTLAND, Maine - Health officials say Maine has experienced a late-season flu surge with half of the state's influenza cases happening in the month of March.
Dr. Siiri Bennett, the state epidemiologist, tells the Portland Press Herald that "there's still a lot of flu out there.''
It has been a busy flu season. Through April 1, Maine has had 4,188 positive tests for influenza viruses. That compares to 2,360 for all of the last flu season.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, chronic disease is one of the leading causes of death and disability in this country — and it’s also the most preventable.

A New Jersey physician who saw a dramatic improvement in her own chronic illness after changing her personal habits is now practicing what’s called “lifestyle medicine,” and a big part of her switch was adapting a plant-based diet. She shared her personal experience at the Maine Nutrition Council’s annual conference.

PORTLAND, Maine - Police say first responders in Portland were called to assist in eight suspected nonfatal drug overdoses over a roughly 24-hour period that occurred earlier this week.
The Portland Press Herald reports that most of the victims were treated with Narcan, an anti-opioid drug which reverses the effects of overdoses, and all were sent to the hospital.
Lt. Robert Martin says the Portland Police Department sees an average of about two or three overdoses per day.

A.J. Higgins / Maine Public

If there were too many mice in Milbridge, Dr. Cathleen London might have built a better mousetrap. Instead, the rising numbers of uninsured patients with allergy conditions inspired her to adapt an emergency auto-injector at a fraction of the $600 cost offered by the company that manufactures EpiPens.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A pair of bills would allow Maine doctors to prescribe medication that would hasten a patient’s death.

Similar bits by Republican Sen. Roger Katz’s bill and Democratic Rep. Jennifer Parker are both set for a hearing Wednesday.

Both bills would protect health care providers and create a process for patient-directed care for terminally ill adults with limited life expectancy.

Physicians would be able to prescribe a medication that the patient may self-administer to hasten death.

There are a few differences between the bills.

After the death last week of the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan declared that the ACA was the law of the land for the foreseeable future. But that future is murky, with more reform attempts expected.

Gov. Paul LePage is blasting Republicans in Congress for not supporting House Speaker Paul Ryan’s bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Speaking on Bangor radio station WVOM, LePage called for a new state-chartered health insurer to make sure Mainers have access to coverage.

LePage said the failure of Congress to come up with a replacement to the ACA could leave Mainers in the lurch, with no health insurer left in the state.

The lack of support for the GOP health care bill has Maine consumer advocacy groups and health care providers breathing sighs of relief — for now.

Consumer and provider groups across the U.S., including many in Maine, opposed the Republican bill.

“I’m feeling relief for all of the people who would have lost their health insurance coverage if this bill had moved forward,” says Robyn Merrill, executive director of Maine Equal Justice Partners.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

When faced with a terminal illness, some people might choose to fight it. But increasingly, doctors and patients are taking a different tack: Instead of creating a battle plan that focuses on the illness, they create an approach that emphasizes patient goals.

PORTLAND, Maine - An opioid addiction treatment program will occupy the space once used by the India Street Public Health Center in Portland.

The Portland Press Herald reports that Grace Street Recovery Services says it's moving its Auburn Street facility to India Street to help a larger number of addicts in the Portland area.

The organization offers medication-assisted treatment and intensive counseling at clinics in Portland, Lewiston and Sanford.

The Legislature is considering a bill that would establish a grant program to pay up to half the cost of jail-based drug treatment programs.

Saco Sen. Justin Chenette says his proposal has support from county sheriffs, including York Sheriff Bill King.

“Problem of addiction has evolved into a public health and public safety crisis. While enforcement and drug interdiction should certainly be a part of our response, our community members need treatment to combat their addiction,” King says.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., (m.), with Greg Walden, R-Ore., (r.), and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., (l), during a news conference on the American Health Care Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 7, 2017.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

A plan put forth by U.S. House Republican leaders to replace the Affordable Care Act is getting a mixed response from the members of Maine’s Congressional delegation, and from stakeholders closer to home.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

This story originally aired Thursday, March 2.

As we age, some of us may reach a point where we can no longer live independently. Assisted living is often the next step. While the typical assisted living model houses dozens of residents, there’s a growing trend to offer smaller, home-based alternatives.